A Weak Start to the New Year

January 1-15?, 2022

Dear Family, Friends, and Diary,

This diary starts with a summary of the first week of 2022. For sure, this writing effort is more therapy for me than anything else. We need a record of how 2022 started and how we are handling it. Sounds ominous.

starbucksAs usual, for most things more than a few hours old, I turn to the camera records and this week there was precious little there. On the second of January, I returned to Starbucks as my diary-writing office, but this time Covid chased me outside. This is the one indoor space where I normally spend considerable time and, with the omicron resurgence, inside felt dangerous. My accommodation was to start indoors until two or more customers sit down. Then I went to the patio (even in 50F weather) or inside the Tesla named Carla. Cases are doubling in a week and nothing good will come of this new trend.

sunriseGetting up early is occasionally rewarded with a nice backyard sunrise. Days start early because complex thoughts start early. I expect everyone is digesting the last two pandemic years and wondering if the New Year really will be Happy like the seasonal greeting implies. Of course, I hope so, but Norwegians are not notorious for sunny optimism. It seems like we are facing Disease-Year Three, and we are all tired.

artMarianne keeps positive with art, although her days do get interrupted with "other" (more on that below). Her current series of abstract art lesson homework pieces are excellent, naturally. Sometimes I watch the process and it seems magical to me. Blank moves to scribbles moves to patterns moves to colors and ends in a painting. Through all the hours, she seems happy. We are both grateful for that.

My own at-home escape is puzzles. I suppose I should get back into photography, but gray winter days are not inspiring and we do not seem able to make trips to more worthy destinations. In the meantime, there are the colors and challenges of 1,000-piece images.

village US Tour

The first Thursday of January was a challenge, courtesy of Kaiser Health. We started with a Covid test for Marianne, in preparation for a procedure next Monday. She is tiring of these nose pokes, but at least the results are uniformly negative. From there it was a pair of physical therapy sessions, one for each shoulder, tiring, but useful, and her long-time therapists have become friends. That helps.

In the afternoon, we had a phone conference with Dr. Box, her oncologist. The bottom line of the hour-long call was that the doctor wrote a prescription for 12 weeks of chemotherapy, therapy that should start next week. There's nothing good about this, except it will end.

And then there was the 9pm trip to the Emergency Department. After her long medical day, Marianne enjoyed a warm evening bath, until she slipped on the climb out of the old tub and opened up her forehead. We returned to Kaiser, where they sewed her up and ran a CT scan of her head, looking for signs of concussion or internal bleeding. Nothing found. At 2:30 am, she was released and the five-event Kaiser day ended.

Since then, we have stayed quiet. Nurse neighbor Susan came over to change head dressing. Thanks. The eye bruise has gotten worse, and we may need another check with medical neighbors to see if this is "normal". Hope so.

Friday included our normal Zoom game session with Colorado and Maryland. This was a good piece of normalcy, although we in California tired first. Like usual, I can not even remember who won and that's the way it should be!garage

Saturday was quiet again. Marianne rested her head and black eye. I walked a bit and noted Tom's garage for the first time in weeks. His homage to Betty White was worth a snicker or two, appropriate for the actor's life.

I hope the implication that 2022 will be better than 2021 proves true. Personally, I'm not so sure, but that's from a gray Norwegian viewpoint.

house signSunday started with comforting routine. I was up early, made my coffee, and turned to the papers. The Fresno Bee takes only a few minutes, but the New York Times is more work and, on Sundays especially, offers feature stories that distract from news. Days later, as I write this, I'm not sure what caught my attention, but that too is routine. Midway through, I made Marianne's coffee (decaf, a single cup a day) and we chatted about the day's plan: art for her, puttering and football-TV for me, mostly within our comfortable, historic home. I wonder what the Peckinpah family Sunday routine was, 80 years ago.

fcc signExercise is part of routine too, but the Peloton seemed like too much work, so I just grabbed a camera and strolled in the neighborhood. Most pictures came from our neighbor, Fresno City College. A hundred and ten years ago, it was Fresno State Normal School, preparing teachers for the local schools with two years of training. In 1949 the school became Fresno State College and made plans to move to a larger campus in farm fields north of town. When the move happened, the old campus was re-purposed as a two-year community college, Fresno City College, currently the largest community college in California and, I believe, in the US. Now, the campus offers a place for me to relax, taking nothing-special winter pictures.

gargoyles red

sunroiseMonday started our "work week". Even retired, weekdays are different from weekends. I'm not sure we have much different to accomplish, but our to-do lists are bigger anyway. After a beautiful sunrise, we did the normal cleaning and tidying, followed by grocery shopping and errands. At sometime along the way, an introductory call from the oncology nurse shifted our thinking to the elephant in our quiet rooms. She said we needed to think about a few things.

Still, we kept busy. I started a new puzzle. Marianne had her nails done. We picked up a loaf of bread from "The Bread Lady", a home-based baker a few blocks away. As routine as we could imagine.


The next day we talked again to Kaiser Oncology and settled on the activities that would fill our attention for the next three months. Chemo will be every Friday morning, with blood tests and EKG a day or two before. Marianne will take a handful of pills before and after to counteract nausea and may need shots to build up white blood-cell counts. Other side effects will include hair loss and hand and foot nerve damage. Overall, it's a path she has been down before, but everything is intimidating and scary anew.

Two days later, I do not remember what else we did on Tuesday. Wednesday started the pre-chemo testing, once some other business with the dermatologist was done. Marianne earns frequent-patient points at Kaiser, but they really are not good for anything. She is tougher with all this than I would be - or am.

Stay tuned.

John and Marianne.